Monday, 5 January 2015

Why You Shouldn't Sign Another Ched Evans Petition

Ched Evans is probably a vile person. I probably wouldn't like him if I met him. But that means nothing. There are many vile people out there and many are in the most lofty positions in our establishment. Open the newspapers today and you'll probably see dozens of headlines which make you suck your teeth and think: hope the bastards get what they deserve.

'Getting what you deserve' is the cornerstone of our system of law. It's important in a modern legal system that we find a more humane version of the old dictum about 'an eye for an eye'. Ched Evans was convicted of rape and the system did whatever it is that the system does to convicted rapists. He then left prison.

And now he can't find a place to resume his former life playing football because any club seeking to sign him is immediately the subject of campaigns to prevent the signing. The media, of course, treat it lightly. This is new territory and everybody is afraid of Twitter justice, where things escalate quickly and without serious debate. It all feels like being the subject of a schoolyard vendetta, where everybody turns on you for no reason other than you're the person they've chosen to victimise this week. Of course, there is a reason to victimise Evans. He's a convicted rapist. And that's why it's very noticeable that the news channels report the Evans story but rarely comment on it. To comment would be to raise points which are unpopular. One unpopular point would be: how is this any different to mob justice? How is the Ched Evans case different to so many cases we see? How is it different to the example of Mike Tyson, another convicted rapist, who is now lauded as a boxing great and with cameo appearances in hugely popular films which earn millions at the box office and without any word of rebuke from the Twitter enforcers.

How is it that one high profile public figure can be accused of villainy without the public seeming to care much of a hoot about bringing him to justice, whilst some other high profile figure is locked up for committing far lesser crimes and then treated as Public Enemy Number One.

None of it makes sense.

The only difference is that we live in the age of memes of all things. These active 'ideas' spread like a virus and infect the particularly dumb. The Ched Evans campaigns have the intellectual depth of a grumpy cat meme. We're all meant to shout 'bastard' but we could equally be shouting 'cute' or 'LOL' or whatever the current dumb phrase happens to be. There's no debate about the allegations, the fact that the legal process has been served. If there was a problem with his conviction, then anger should be directed towards the system and the Attorney General. Yet it isn't because this is about something else. It might well be something new: new ways of raising a mob and the way powerless individuals can feel a sense of power. It might be about class and privilege, the understandable envy of people who don't want to see a convicted rapist earning a fortune for his footballing skills, but wouldn't raise the same objections if he'd been some ennobled toff who went on to live a life of sleazy privilege without an ability to call his own.

Yet at what point should do these people decide that Evans can carry on with his life? If he quits football, would they allow him to become a pundit? A broadcaster? A reporter? The bloke brushing up in the Sky Sports studio? Would vagrancy be too good for him? That's an important question. Not because Evans deserves our sympathy but because any of us could become the next Ched Evans: a person hounded by a loud braying mob for reasons that go beyond the simple rule of law.

Ched Evans may well be a scumbag but furthering his punishment outside the court of law makes scumbags of us all. It's a dangerous precedent and just as much a symptom of these brutal bestial days as his original crime.


  1. Ah, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I was waiting for the all the hate messages calling me out as an apologist for a scumbag.

  2. Hurrah, a little sense in this murky world. This is just one example of many in the 'petition-itis' that is now plaguing our public life.
    I first came into contact with in connection with something like the Sudanese Christian woman who was due to be stoned to death, it seemed a very worthy cause and so I signed it and several other similarly aimed. As a result I now regularly get updates on petitions that I have signed and others I 'might also like to consider'.
    That is where I heard of the first Ched Evans petition sponsored by someone with the apposite nom de guerre of Jean Hatchet, it is interesting to note that she, if it is one person, was the instigator of the other petitions on subsequent possible employments for Evans.
    Now I must confess that I do not particularly like football and had not Even heard of Evans, so that is not my interest, it is the manipulation of the many by the vociferous few that annoys me. All mainstream media reports go with the breathless PR message that x,000 are against this cause or that in '24 hours' or less than x days, when these are in reality small amounts in internet terms, hardly a landslide. To give some perspective says that they have 80 million+ users of their site - ie who could effortlessly click on any campaign and swell it's ranks. If Justin Bieber farts on twitter, millions respond immediately and forget about it just as quickly.

    Also, the petition site itself does not register all those of us who are canvassed on issues that we DON'T agree with, there is nowhere to do this, save the far more tiresome process of starting your own petition, which just feeds the beast. I too am mystified that no mainstream commentators had taken all this at face value. Good luck in your blogging

  3. Dear Francis,

    So glad there's more than one of us gritting at teeth in the face of mob rule. And you're right: PR has so much to do with it. Coincidentally, I had intended to write about the nasty rise of PR but I was having a conversation earlier about Evens and thought I'd like to get my words down.

    We life in a terrible age when reasonable people have to defend the worst of us simply in order to defend the legal system. As soon as I'd posted this, I was over at The Guardian and noticed they've paid Suzanne Moore for more of her illogical rubbish, in which she overlooks the important debate and simply devolves into some rubbish about twitter trolls and men threatening to rape women as way of defending Evans. As a heterosexual man, I'm deeply offended by it but we're never allowed to say that. But that's how these arguments go. They argue 'if you defend Evans, you must agree with rape' which is, of course, illogical and not what I am saying.

    Anyway, that you for your sublime reasonable comment. As for 'good luck': nearly ten years of blogging and no success, so having 'good luck' is about as likely as my every getting pair for my either my writing or my cartoons.

  4. Once more, you irritate me with your superbly worded common-sense…

    I had to read a while before I realised who Ched Evans was (there are so many others, like Kim Kardashian or David Cameron; names that keep being bandied about but I have no idea who they are or what they do). The young lad has been tried, found guilty, and done the time. Why should he not return to his previous job? It involves no unsupervised contact with women; any contact he has with women will be entirely at their own volition. One of the big screeches about him is that he “shows no remorse!” In an interview, he defended that position by asking why should he show remorse when he did not commit the crime? He believes that the act was consensual, and it just boiled down to his word against hers in a court of law.

  5. You sum it up better than I ever could. I didn't go into the details of the case because they're pretty sordid and detract from my point about mob justice. You are, however, correct. There's quite a bit about this case which is strange and I'm not quite sure how anybody can say with 100% certainty that he's guilty. It's odd that his friend was found not guilty and he guilty, simply because (I believe) his friend was too drunk to remember what happened. I suppose the sad thing about this is how much time the media are wasting reporting this story when there are far bigger fish to fry.